Movie Night – The Critical Geek
If you’ve ever watched a movie or TV show with a geek (including me, much to my wife’s chagrin), you know that it can be a frustrating experience, you’ll probably hear at least a few snarky comments about plot holes, bad dialog, lazy editing or a myriad of other things. I generally maintain a respectful silence while I’m in a movie theater, but launch into my critique as soon as the lights come up.
So why are geeks so critical? Are we all that way? Is it ever possible for us to just let go and enjoy the movie?
I think that the biggest reason that I’m so critical is because of the fact that I truly love movies and television. I sometimes have such high expectations for a film, that it’s easy to be let down and I have trouble setting my expectations any lower. Another reason that geeks can be critical is that we have a tendency to over-analyze things. We pay attention to the trivial little things in the background, we go out of our way to notice the nuggets that film makers hide in shots, and with that we notice the things that don’t make sense or are out of place.
I tend to be able to spot formulas and such within movies pretty easily. I’m talking about those things that some filmmakers use to suck you in, or illicit an emotional response without really putting in any effort. You know, the fluffy bunny scenes, the helpless person in peril, the baby stroller in the path of a speeding car. While they’re not always horrible, lazy filmmakers like to use them way too often and some films are nothing but a string of such cheap-shot scenes.
Consider this. In the days before there were computer clubs in high school, what activities tended to attract the geeks? Chess club? Sure. Brain Bowl/Hi-Q/Jeopardy type competitions? You bet. But one of the big ones was the A/V or Audio/Visual club or crew. We were the ones who set up film projectors, VCRs and even ran the gear for Drama productions. Through that involvement, many of us also took an interest in the actual filmmaking process and developed a palate for good movies. We learned to distinguish good and bad writing, editing and cinematography.
A lot of movies are based on some other source material like books or comic books. A film that doesn’t do justice to the original material can really set off a geek rant. While some will insist that a movie has to exactly follow the original, I’m not that much of a purist. I can generally accept variations in stories as long as they make sense, especially when something from a book just wouldn’t work on-screen. As long as a film make is true to the feel of the story and as long as you can tell that they really understood the characters, I’m OK with it.
An example of a good adaption that deviated from the source material is the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. The movies deleted several story elements and modified quite a few more, but even most die-hard fans of the books agree that the deleted and modified portions just wouldn’t have worked on-screen and would have been nonsensical to anyone who had never read the stories.
But is it possible for me to just enjoy a movie for what it is? Absolutely! A few months ago, I published a post about bad movies and how much I enjoy them. I even love mindless action movies… so long as they don’t try to be anything else. One of my favorite movie of 2010 was Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables. In every way it was a bad movie. Horrible story, lame jokes and ridiculously unbelievable stunts were all present, but that’s exactly what Stallone intended for the film and it just plain worked. It was an 80’s action film come back to haunt the theaters.
So yes, I am capable of enjoying a movie, but I reserve the right to make comments and remarks, even about movies that I truly love.